When Casey Pick left Maine in 2009, she says she departed with unfinished business.
Pick had worked to defeat a referendum that nullified Maine's marriage equality legislation, but the referendum passed 53 percent to 47 percent.
"When we lost, it never quite left me. It was devastating," says Pick, program director for the Log Cabin Republicans. "We had done everything we could. We had really gone above and beyond. People did shift after shift of door knocking and phone banking up to the second the polls closed. We got to the end of it and some of the supporters we thought were with us weren't. It hurt."
But on Tuesday, Mainers will have another chance to weigh in on gay marriage. And this time Pick is on the ground, confident Mainers will vote on the side of same-sex couples.
"Three years is a very long time on this issue," Pick says. "Voters brought this initiative. These are folks who are willing to split ticket and willing to analyze all the issues."
Many things changed in the state since Maine brought the ballot initiative in 2009. After they were defeated, supporters of marriage equality in Maine didn't stop working. Without the pressures of an election cycle, organizers began voter education efforts targeted at the rural counties of Maine. Supporters say they've had more than 200,000 conversations with voters in a state with slightly more than one million people.
Pick says she came back to Maine because the issue is deeply personal.
"I want to be able to honeymoon in Maine one day," she says.
Pick graduated high school in Iowa in 2002 when the conversation about gay marriage equality was heating up in Massachusetts. She also hadn't yet come to terms with her own orientation.
"I was a scared, closeted kid who did not have Glee on television," Pick says. "I had to find references to human sexuality in books in the back of the school library. I was scared of being gay and was determined to research the fear out of me."
It wasn't until she attended Claremont McKenna College in California that Pick began to embrace being gay. She says she came out, in part, because she saw equality issues like same-sex marriage were worth fighting for. Pick joined Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative group that believes in marriage equality, and in law school began campaigning in states across the country for same-sex marriage.
Watching the ballot initiative in Maine fail, Pick says she became more motivated.
While Maine is the first and only state to bring a citizen-initiated ballot question, three other states also are also voting on same-sex marriage on Tuesday.
In Washington and Maryland, constituents will vote on legislative initiatives allowing gay marriage. And in Minnesota, voters will choose whether the state constitution should be amended to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.
While state legislatures and courts have ruled in favor of gay marriage, this could be the first election where a same-sex ballot initiative passes.
The four-pronged battle over gay marriage has left religious groups and the National Organization for Marriage spread a little thin.
"It is much more difficult to have to fight four state ballot initiatives at the same time," says NOM President Brian Brown.
NOM has given more than $5 million to defeat same-sex marriage in the four states and is depending on religious allies, including the Catholic and Mormon churches, to get out the message and the vote.
Black voters are another major coalition for NOM. The religious black community helped pass Proposition 8 in California, which amended California's constitution to ban same-sex marriage, and Brown says he's confident black voters will help defeat the ballot measure in Maryland.
"We have our own rainbow coalition," Brown says. "We have a pretty diverse coalition, and it is not just split between Republicans and Democrats."
While Brown dismisses current polling showing the ballot initiatives in Washington and Maine winning the majority of support, Brown admits those states are a bit more challenging to win.
"I think Maine is particularly difficult," Brown says. "We are just up against a tremendous money advantage on the other side."
Brown says his group, which has successfully defended the heterosexual definition of marriage in 34 states, says legalizing gay marriage hurts communities. Brown argues kids in states with legalized gay marriage are taught about homosexuality in schools and religious organizations are ostracized.
In the realm of public opinion, same-sex marriage has seen increased support over the last 15 years. A Pew survey released in February shows 46 percent of Americans favor same-sex marriage, while 44 percent are opposed.
And while gay voters are only 4 percent of the national electorate, they are a powerful constituency shaping public opinion on the issue of marriage equality.
"They vote, they attend protests, they report being interested in politics, and they write letters to policy makers," says Patrick Egan, a political scientist at New York University who studies gay voters.
Egan's research shows that the LBGT community is more politically active than voters at large, and they run the gamut on the political spectrum. Exit polls in 2008 reveal roughly 75 percent of gay voters cast ballots for Democratic candidates while 25 percent vote for Republicans.
Of course, marriage is not the only thing gay voters will fight for in the 2012 election. Like any constituency group, the LBGT community is multi-faceted.
"The biggest misconception is that gay voters only care about gay issues," Egan says. "While ballot initiatives like gay marriage influence some gay voters, they care about the same issues as all Americans including the economy, education and national security."
Lt. Dan Choi, a former American infantry officer in the Army who became a gay rights symbol when he chained himself to the White House fence during the debate over "don't ask, don't tell" agrees, but says marriage equality remains one of his top voting issues.
"If you step into a voting booth you have to know that you are a full person first. And we are not there yet," Choi says. "In the mind of the gay voter, if you cannot go into that voting booth as a full person, your vote is going to be about creating equality."
President Barack Obama and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney have opposing views on gay marriage. Obama announced earlier this year, he supported gay marriage while Romney continues to view marriage as being between a man and a woman.
Egan argues Obama's announcement made a big splash in the gay community and cemented the gay vote for the Democratic Party for years to come.
"My best guess is that we are going to see this divide going forward for a few more decades," Egan says. "The Democrats keep moving the ball even further forward."
But even with gay marriage initiatives on the ballot and Obama polling better among the gay community than voters at large, Egan says gay voters are unlikely to sway the presidential election in any major way. All of the ballot initiatives are in safe Democratic states, and gay voters only make up a small fraction of the electorate.
But moving forward, Egan says the LBGT community and their straight allies could push the political needle and put more pressure on their political leaders to not only support gay marriage, but do something about it.
"Gay marriage is a big deal to younger generations. It is younger people who are being raised to believe that gay marriage is the issue of our time."
Pick says she's optimistic Mainers will be the first state to vote for gay marriage on the ballot, but if not, she says the movement will only continue to gain traction in Maine and beyond.
"The fight will continue to go on," Pick says. "And if we don't win it in four years, we will win it in six or in eight."
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Lauren Fox is a political reporter for U.S. News and World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.